Lockyer Lends Support to Marijuana Club in Supreme Court Case
The state of California is joining various civil liberties and public health groups to lend support to the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club in its U.S. Supreme Court case "standoff" with the federal government over medical marijuana laws, the San Jose Mercury News reports. In a brief filed yesterday, State Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) stated that California has the authority to enforce Proposition 215, a voter-approved law that permits marijuana use among seriously ill individuals, without federal government interference. According to the brief, "The electorate in California have declared their view on this question, and it should be respected by this court as a democratic exercise properly reserved to the states. The Constitution does not prevent the states from expressing their preference for allowing citizens to use cannabis to treat serious illness." In 1998, the Clinton administration sued the Oakland club along with five other Northern California clubs. For its part, the Justice Department maintains that Proposition 215 "conflict[s] with federal drug laws." Justice officials said that allowing California to distribute medical marijuana would "promote disrespect and disregard for an act of Congress that is central to combatting illegal drug trafficking."
In addition to Lockyer's brief, New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R), California state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose), the American Civil Liberties Union and various other medical and public health groups also filed friend-of-the-court briefs opposing the federal government's opinion. Although Washington state, Oregon, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Colorado, Maine and Alaska all have enacted similar medical marijuana laws, none of those states chose to join California's legal position. The Family Research Council and the Global Drug Policy of Drug Free America filed briefs in support of the Bush administration, which inherited the case from the Clinton administration. The Supreme Court is set to hear legal arguments on March 28 (Mintz, San Jose Mercury News, 2/21). The ruling is likely to "determine the scope" of other states' medical marijuana laws and influence other states that are considering them, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.